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Awesome Color - Massa Hypnos

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Artist: Awesome Color

Album: Massa Hypnos

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: Jun. 3, 2010


Awesome Color - "Transparent" (Massa Hypnos)


Listening to Massa Hypnos, Awesome Color’s third album for Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! imprint, one is hard pressed to differentiate these tracks from those that dropped on earlier records. The primary colors, if you will, of the band’s sound — guttural Motor City rock ’n’ roll spiced with psychedelic interludes and skater kid slack — are as bright as ever. What little alteration there is comes in the form of minor tune-ups: a lead guitar that scars slightly more deeply, a rhythm section sucking a touch more air out of their locked groove. As a rule, Awesome Color seem to see albums not as an opportunity to redraw their artistic guidelines, but as a chance to show off the gradual ever-tightening of their craft.

Initially, this lack of a leap forward can be a let down for those hoping a new record will highlight a shift in songwriting prowess, or evidence an expanded sonic palette. However, as AC’s Detroit brethren the Stooges illustrated so elegantly, moving forward does not always require reinvention. Or, put in blunt beer-and-a-bong-hit speak, Why fuck with a good thing?

Not fucking with a good thing seems the main focus of Awesome Color round three, and they do it with dedication. Once the listener can get past any apprehension associated with feeling like he may be listening to a mix of songs plucked from the first two records, the strength of Massa Hypnos begins to shine through.

“Transparent” will snap to attention anyone who may space on what to expect during the time it takes the CD to load. Guitarist/vocalist Derek Stanton lets loose a clear-cutting riff and grave-digging yowl, signaling bassist Michael Troutman and drummer Allison Busch to drop into a rhythm that grinds like the workings of an oil-coated factory floor. “Flying” trades pummel for jangle while attaining an open-highway acceleration similar in sound to Sonic Youth’s most Neu!-inspired horizon-strum. “Zombie” is the type of grungy gutter-rock that was ruined by thousands of late-’90s alterna-rockers. Here, thankfully, the power-trio’s working comes across more spooky than sincere.

The most incendiary moments on the album come when Troutman and Busch glue into a groove, allowing Stanton to fly wild with his six-string spazzing. The second half of “Oaxaca” — once Stanton parks his rather insipid lines about jettisoning NYC for Mexico — oozes into an extended wind-burned guitar raid. Album closer “I OU” is the disc’s most overtly Stooges-inspired moment, with Stanton channeling both Iggy and Asheton’s performance on the second half of Fun House.

It’s difficult to make a claim as to whether Massa Hypnos is Awesome Color’s best record — there’s nothing here as overtly anthemic as the first record’s uber jam “Hat Energy.” Yet, the band are clearly firing clean and hot, making these eight tracks eminently enjoyable, if not explicitly new.

Here’s to the same ol’ story only getting better with age.

By Ethan Covey

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